Fresh off of back-to-back meet victories on both the men’s and women’s sides, the UCSB track & field team will hope to continue its recent prowess at the Ben Brown Invitational this weekend.
The Cal State Fullerton-hosted event will start off with the hammer, javelin, and distance carnival on Friday, featuring the 3000 m steeplechase and the 5000 m. The rest of the events, including the sprints and jumps, will be decided Saturday afternoon.
The meet featured three Big West teams last year and will likely be UCSB’s Head Coach Pete Dolan’s first up-close look at a couple of rival teams the Gauchos will face as the year progresses.
Dolan has his athletes primed for a memorable season for the program and expressed his delight with the veterans’ leadership and poise as well as the underclassmen’s hunger for success following Santa Barbara’s domination of UCI and UCSD last weekend.
In the sprints, junior Sike Azu-Irondi will look to build on his UCSB record-setting dash in the 100 m just five days ago. He hadn’t told anybody heading into the meet, but he had been planning on running faster than the 10.56 s record Sandy Combs set 30 years ago.
He managed to do just that, shaving a hundredth of a second from the record and claiming it for himself in his first race of the year, a statement he’ll want to follow with a string of equally impressive races in upcoming weeks to establish himself as the unequivocal best sprinter in school history.
In the throws, UCSB enters the meet having recorded marks this season that could’ve won every event among D-I athletes at last year’s edition of CSUF’s invitational, which also features several professional SoCal track and field athletes looking to get early season race experience.
Former Gaucho Thomas Gore-Schreck won the javelin at the 2016 Ben Brown with a 63.77 m toss, the event he holds the program record in with 10 feet of breathing room.
Current senior Matthew Kuskey, who sits sixth in UCSB history in the event, will like his chances to take the crown this weekend with a 54 m throw last week, higher than any collegiate competitors that finished below Gore-Schreck.
Junior thrower Kordell Hampton enters the meet with an 8 m edge on his longest throw over last year’s winner after breaking the UCSB record in the discus at the All-UC Meet with a 178’ bomb.
“Kordell and Stephen [Leach] traded the lead throughout the discus competition, with Stephen throwing 172′ 6 in the last round to take the lead,” said Throws/Multis Coach Cody Fleming. “Kordell was the only thrower left and he nailed it. I think Stephen woke him up a little bit. It’s always cool for me to see teammates pushing each other like that and each coming out with new PRs.”
Junior Kayla Thayer has a solid chance at attaining first place in the women’s shot put, with her season best of 43′ 6.5” giving her about a three-inch buffer from last year’s winner at Ben Brown. Senior Valerie Nestor should also be able to threaten the top in the hammer after her 56.16 m throw last week.
Both the men’s and women’s throwing teams have proven early on in the outdoor season that they will be a force all year, with multiple throwers in each event capable of a podium-worthy throw amongst Big West competition.
Junior Jenna Hinkle (mile and 3000 m) and senior Adam Avila (steeple) will be among the fastest in the collegiate field, hoping to repeat their individual wins last week in their respective events, leading the distance squad to Fullerton.
The meet begins at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 9, at the Titan Track complex at Cal State Fullerton, and resumes the next day at 9 a.m.